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US Open Golf 2011: Phil Mickelson and 5 Americans with a Real Chance to Win

John BurkeContributor IJune 17, 2011

US Open Golf 2011: Phil Mickelson and 5 Americans with a Real Chance to Win

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    BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 17:  Phil Mickelson hits his tee shot on the fifth hole during the second round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 17, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
    David Cannon/Getty Images

    American golf has been struggling.

    Nothing against Steve Stricker, but it is a bit shocking that he is the highest-ranked American player. I thought Phil Mickelson was supposed to step up in the absence of Tiger Woods.

    If he is, Mickelson hasn't gotten the memo.

    The last three major winners are Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen. While those guys are great golfers, to not see an American hoist at least one the last three major trophies is a bit disappointing.

    But this week is the U.S. Open. Americans have dominated this tournament in the past.

    Here are five guys who have a legitimate shot at being crowned the 2011 U.S. Open champion.

5. Steve Stricker

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    BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 16:  Steve Stricker hits his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 16, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Steve Stricker is the hottest golfer America can call its own.

    He is playing great, and with a win at the Memorial he has momentum heading into Congressional.

    After a rough first round where Stricker shot 75, he will look to make a run in Round 2.

    Stricker is not crazy long, which usually helps at the U.S. Open. He is, however, crazy accurate. Stricker will hit greens and give himself looks at birdies, which, at the majors, is what it is all about.

4. Bubba Watson

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    BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 16:  Bubba Watson watches a shot during the first round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 16, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
    David Cannon/Getty Images

    After day one, Bubba Watson finds himself at even par.

    While not a terrible start, it could have been much better.

    A normally great wedge player, Watson could not seem to dial in the distances with the short clubs. In the process, he cost himself scoring chances.

    With that said, I fully expect Watson to take advantage of his wedge shots the rest of the week. If he can avoid a big number, Watson may get another chance at a major.

3. Ryan Palmer

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    BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 16:  Ryan Palmer hits a shot during the first round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 16, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    The only American to break 70 in the first round, Palmer did so quietly and without much attention.

    No one really gave Palmer any thought heading into the tournament. In reality, Palmer is coming off a top-10 finish at the Masters and is not afraid of the bright lights of the majors.

    If Palmer can calm his nerves for the remaining three days, there is a real chance he could make a weekend run.

2. Davis Love III

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    BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 16:  Davis Love III watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 16, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    What a story this would be! 

    Davis Love III shot a one-under-par 70 in the first round. Showing no signs of age, Love could have had a much lower score.

    His putting was not great, leaving many shots out on the course.

    Love would win the hearts of America if his good play continues. It would be a great story and a great way to show the world American golf is not going away anytime soon.

1. Phil Mickelson

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    BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 17:  Phil Mickelson hits his second shot from the sixth fairway during the second round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 17, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
    David Cannon/Getty Images

    Phil Mickelson had a rough first round.

    Shooting 74, Mickelson could not find a fairway if his ball had eyes. Yet to shoot 74 while struggling to hit fairways in the U.S. Open shows that his game is not far off.

    Mickelson made an emergency call to swing coach Butch Harmon before the first round and is determined to fix his driving.

    Assuming he starts hitting fairways, Mickelson is America's best chance at winning.

    He can go low, and if his putter gets hot, the field better watch out.


    For more 2011 U.S. Open coverage, stay tuned to Bleacher Report for U.S. Open scores and leaderboard updates, and the latest news and analysis.

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